Back in the 2005-era, affiliate was the wild wild west of marketing. Think Las Vegas before the Bellagio and the Blue Man Group. Or Palm Springs before Coachella. It was new, different, and misunderstood. Plus, there was little-to-no policing or oversight.
Understandably, that led to a lot of skepticism about its value and hesitancy to implement it.
Needless to say, affiliate marketing has come a long way. Most companies now understand what affiliate marketing is and does; they see the potential that it offers them.
This shift in perception has never been more game-changing than for those companies targeting both buyers (B2C) and sellers (B2B).
Some of these companies, which are referred to as online “marketplaces,” are essentially like an online shopping mall. Consumers can purchase from several different merchants on one website. The vast selection and competitive pricing that these online marketplaces offer are attracting more consumers.
Online marketplaces have become big business. In fact, nearly $100 billion was transacted on marketplaces in the United States in 2015, according to a comprehensive research report by InternetRetailer.
The term “online marketplaces” can also refer to companies that don’t sell their wares through an online shopping mall (e.g. eBay or Amazon), but do target both buyers and sellers. Think of them as the much-frequented neighborhood store.
Both online shopping mall-type marketplaces and independent local shop-type businesses are able to take their marketing to a new, more profitable level by leveraging affiliate marketing.
Let’s look at a real-life example to make it more concrete.
One of our clients, Teespring, seeks artists and creative types who want to sell their designs on cool products (B2B), as well as customers who want to buy those cool products (B2C).
Since there are multiple layers of their business, each requiring some sort of an acquisition, we strategically structured their affiliate program so that each leg (buyer and seller) partnered with the appropriate types of affiliates.
For instance, for the buyer side of their business, we attract, engage and optimize high-quality, consumer-facing affiliates (B2C). For the seller side of their business, we focus on more niched, non-traditional partners; affiliates who are more career/business/entrepreneurial-focused (B2B).
By implementing an affiliate program, Teespring and other online marketplace-type companies are able to scale and target their marketing efforts in ways they didn’t even know was possible before. What’s more is that they only pay when they get the results they are asking for.
New Challenges with New Opportunities
There’s no question that managing this type of joint buyer/seller affiliate model is more complex than managing a program that is strictly consumer-facing.
The deals, promotions and offers are different for each leg. Supply and demand is different. In most cases, each leg needs to operate as if it’s an individual affiliate program.
But the opportunities and growth potential this type of affiliate model offers to companies is unprecedented.
In fact, companies of all shapes, sizes, services and product offerings are actually starting to funnel their main marketing channels through their affiliate program. Even companies that, just a few years ago, wouldn’t have given affiliate marketing the time of day or didn’t see it as a good “fit” for their business model have done an about-face.
While it’s no longer the wild wild west … we’re definitely pushing the boundaries of affiliate marketing and are standing on the edge of a new marketing frontier.
Check out our other blog post where we share key tips and strategies to managing your affiliate program so that it effectively recruits both buyers and sellers.